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Traveling with Intelligence

ONE OF 3M’S PLANES carrying high-level employees had just taken off when the corporate security department received information that the plane would encounter a deadly threat if it touched down at its destination, which was in an unstable region of the world. Rather than risk employees’ lives, the company’s corporate security manager for Europe and the Middle East, Lawrence J. Pavlick, ordered the plane’s immediate return.

Multinational companies like 3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, face these types of security challenges daily, and timely intelligence is vital. “It’s important to have good information on which to base your decisions,” says Pavlick.

Newspapers and other traditional media outlets don’t suffice, because, according to Pavlick, some of the company’s clients and subsidiaries “operate in areas where there is not an open press and good information is hard to come by.” Even in countries where newspapers are available, Pavlick says, the information may not be useful.

Realizing the need for a better source of intelligence, Pavlick began searching for a user-friendly service that his security department could rely on to provide timely and accurate information around the clock. He wanted a service that would go beyond the daily news, with a more in-depth and less sensational approach to news and with some analysis of the implications.

After evaluating several products, Pavlick chose TranSecur, an information service that provides analytical support on security conditions around the world. Unlike other sources of information, Pavlick says, this service provides processed information, which has been interpreted and reviewed.

If there was a bombing in Turkey, for example, a newspaper might report the location, how many people where killed, and what damage was done. The intelligence service gives that basic who, what, where, when, and why, but also goes beyond that to discuss what implications the incident may have for businesses in the area.

TranSecur employs experts with language skills that allow them to communicate directly with contacts around the world, including the local police, military personnel, intelligence experts, and media. This interaction allows TranSecur to provide information not normally found in media and other outlets.

Pavlick says the information from TranSecur has proven reliable and that has allowed him to gain the confidence of the senior management team. “There’s nothing worse than passing something on to management and it turns out to be wrong,” he says.

The TranSecur service provides country-and region-specific information that is accessed by logging into a secured Web site. 3M pays per user. It limits access privileges to selected members of the security department whose job it is to review the information, looking specifically for incidents that might affect the company’s operations. Although the service also covers domestic threats, Pavlick says that 3M primarily uses it to assess the threat situation in locations outside of the United States.

The information is organized in a database format, and the user is given the opportunity to access regions or individual countries. Once a country or region is selected, a general overview of the area and its security is displayed. The overview also includes a brief description of culture, but the main value is in the threat-related information.

Tabs on the top of the screen include more specific information on security, terrorism, and politics. The information contained in the reports relates to specific types of threats, such as terrorism, and incidents that have occurred and could have potential implications for travelers in the area.

The service offers daily updates that help security provide timely information. 3M executives and the company’s business partners “are sometimes impressed that we advise them of a situation before the local press does,” says Pavlick.

Because the database is Web-based, no installation was involved. Pavlick also says that the security department found the Web site to be extremely intuitive, and the staff required very little training before being able to navigate it.

Although accuracy and timeliness were among Pavlick’s key reasons for choosing the product, he says he has been extremely impressed with TranSecur’s customer service as well. For example, occasionally 3M does business in a country not covered by TranSecur’s analysis. In those cases, Pavlick has the option to call TranSecur and request additional information. TranSecur does some research and typically provides information, free of charge, in less than two days.

In one situation, 3M was considering developing a production plant in an area that TranSecur did not cover. Pavlick called and requested information about that location. In a few days, he was provided with a security assessment for the potential site. The information provided by TranSecur helped 3M better understand the area. Ultimately, the company decided that building in the area carried no significant security risk. If TranSecur had found something significant, Pavlick says, “we probably would not have built a plant there.”

For a multinational company like 3M, solid and accurate security information can mean the difference between a good business decision and a disastrous one. For Pavlick, TranSecur is giving him information that he knows his company’s executives value. “We get more than our money’s worth out of it,” he says.

(For more information: TranSecur Inc.; phone: 800/881-6307; e-mail:[email protected])

By Marta Roberts, staff editor for Security Management.